Everything special becomes ordinary

Julie and mermaid
Photo by Joakim Hjelm. More spectacular prints sold at: http://joakimhjelmphotography.instaproofs.com/store/

Ever been out on the ocean? It’s overwhelming at first, but after a few days, months, years, it’s just a huge bathtub of water you’re on. Life is like an ocean. You can stay close to shore, in the bay, where it’s calm, where you can see the bottom, and you know exactly what you’re going to get, you know what to expect. Or you can venture out into the deceptively unremarkable, rolling expanse of blue.

The ocean is vast like life, and if you live it conservatively, on the surface, skimming along half in the water, and half out, you miss all the beauty and interaction below.Every moment of your walking around, there’s a veneer of the everyday stuff, the ordinary. But under that surface of ordinary blue, gently repeating waves of life, beyond the traffic of endless cars, streams of people walking by, the stores opening and closing, there’s a special experience, if you just punch through the surface, strip off the coat, go a little deeper, and explore. How to get there? Ask how someone is doing. Genuinely. Then ask them what they’re doing. And really listen to them. It’s simple, but that’s the point.

Everything extraordinary is simple. And everything simple is extraordinary.

Here’s the proof: Everything that is special becomes ordinary.

Your new car, the latest and greatest cell phone, even your partner can become unappreciated…so couldn’t a good argument be made that everything ordinary is special, if you’d just look at it differently? If you’d push back on that daily trek around your little world and get out of your flight path. Instead, extend your boundary beyond the shallows of your ocean, the place you’ve acclimated to, and made your home, where everything is visible, calm, and repetitively risk-free.

Life is going to end, our chartered boat is rented and it’s going to be reclaimed by the earth, whether we like it or not. It would be a shame if we didn’t take her out there into that wide beautiful expanse of blue world, throw an anchor down every so often, and dive into the currents. Exploring, underneath it all, beyond the traffic of endless cars, the streams of people walking by, the stores opening and closing. On the surface, all this is ordinary, until you get past it, and see what supports it all: The people, the relationships, the connections, decisions, hopes, desires, and frustrations of humanity. All the ordinary stuff that’s extraordinary once you’re swimming in it, too.

Everything special becomes ordinary, so everything ordinary can be special.
Don’t ignore the ordinary.

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Getting personal isn’t rude.

oldtimer convo

“My mother married 4 times, so I had 4 fathers,” she said.

I told her it must have been tough having her mother get married multiple times.

“What was it like?” I asked.

Then my other friend interjected. “That’s personal.” His tone was incredulous. “You don’t ask about that.”

I hesitated and didn’t ask further, but I’ve thought about it, and I realize that asking about our friend’s problems is not rude. In fact, I think as a friend, it is a requirement.

I believe that if someone isn’t comfortable talking about something, then this is an indication that it’s quite appropriate to ask about it. Friendship is about helping other people, not just with money, or lending a hand, but with your actual interest, asking questions, communicating your thoughts through your words, and encouraging them towards a better place.

Communicating gets thoughts out where you can shine a light on them and ask yourself what you think. Do I want to keep doing this thing that makes me feel this way? And that’s what friends are for. To get you that perspective on a situation that is truly impossible for you to get from the inside. To help you talk about things that you want to change or need to face. The things you don’t want to talk about are precisely the things that need talked about.

Relationships are what make us feel valued. The only way to feel valued by another is when you do something valuable for them, and what’s more valuable than helping them change into a better person? And letting them help you do the same?

Get personal. It’s what friends are for.

Engage. You don’t need to be an expert.

Do we talk to other people about what we’re doing? About what they’re doing? Do we ask why we do what we do..buy what we buy, bank who we bank with..eat what we eat..send our kids to the schools that we send them to, fund the wars that kill for goals we support? Do we not only talk, but do we listen to what they’re saying…and even more importantly, think about what they really mean?

Are we trying to be members of a community, or do we see everyone as doing their own thing, a zero sum game, as passengers on a ship out of our control? Or do we see ourselves as part of it, as responsible for it, unafraid of facing the problems of our society?

Why we don’t do these things is addressed by Meslin. He says: “As long as we believe that people, our own neighbors, are selfish, stupid or lazy, then there’s no hope.” We must recognize this, because it is the collective that is going to change things. And once we accept this, we must have a conversation.

Politics isn’t a bad word unless you’re using it to win an argument, or give yourself an identity. Politics, in fact, is probably the most important thing to talk about right now. Not partisanship…but politics. There’s only one thing more important, and that’s figuring out that you belong in the conversation because you’re not an island onto yourself. That’s what Obama meant, but couldn’t really express.

We’re not different than anyone else, regardless of what they’re doing out there. The guy between jobs, the CEO, or the small businessperson. We have the opportunity to decide because people believed so much in the idea that we’re all equal, that they were willing to die for a system that could give us the power to decide…and it DID give ALL OF US the power to decide. And we must decide, or else the institutions, corporate and government, they will do it for us. And I think these institutions have gotten too big to handle our needs. It’s up to us to start this conversation.

Now, it’s up to us.

Don’t blow through the pleasantries.

“Hi there.”
“Hi”
“How are you?”
“Good. How are you?”
“Almost perfect.”

It’s true that I’m almost perfect. Really.

I’m being more honest than when I say “ok” or “good”.
I’ve also heard people give the depressing “Not bad” and “Can’t complain”.

The “How are you”s are part of the exchange of pleasantries. They’re supposed to be pleasant, right? Then why do we blow through them with a catch phrase? And then we stall, searching for something more tangible to talk about, like the weather, which will save a conversation, yes, but it will also make you want to check your cell phone for more stimulating conversation with faceless people.

I realize that the so-called pleasantries breakdown the walls we have built up. They slowly bring the conversation to more meaningful levels, so that we’re more comfortable.

Why is that?

Sure, our genes may be coded with the fear response to strangers. Strangers who may be from another tribe who want to kill me for my food, shelter, or women, but why continue the drive-by pleasantries today, especially in this country, where survival is pretty easy? Even in low-income areas, no one is starving.

Ok, so keep the superficial pleasantries…what’s next?

When we get to the more meaningful part, we circle around asking the “how” and “why” question and get neck-deep in the comfortable quicksand of what we did, where we went, or what someone else is doing. We might get to some feelings, like “It sucked.’ Or “It was awesome.” But when was the last time we asked a probing “Why?” follow up?

We’re conditioned to make the “How are you?” the start of the conversation, and it’s ok to make it a greeting. Hey, it’s the best greeting I can think of..It jumps right into YOU. But instead of it being the start of the conversation, I think it should be the conversation. Let’s keep the courage of our convictions and see how someone else feels. Maybe give each other a new perspective?

The “how”s and the “why”s are the reason we’re here: It makes up the dialgoue that enables us to connect with people and grow.

I think a good start to connecting is to take that greeting seriously.

So…
How are YOU?